College Fairs

<p>My Junior son and I (and probably a few extra of his friends) will be attending the NCAC college Fair in Philadelphia in a couple of weeks. For whatever reasons, I have never been to a college fair this large before and after looking at the very long list of colleges, I'm wondering what is the best use of our time?</p>

<p>Besides looking over the list and highlighting the ones he's interested in, what are some good questions to ask? Does it make sense to take notes? After going to a pretty small fair at at local CC I realized I was getting the schools mixed up since we were asking the same questions at each rep's table. Son and I were re-hashing the event the next day and couldn't agree on which rep said what. Anyway, anyone have some good strategy?</p>

<p>I have seen young people at NACAC National College Fair writing notes into a notebook as they go from booth to booth. The college fairs always have tote bags for the HUGE piles of college literature you can collect at them. They also have maps of the exhibit area, so you can choose what booths to visit in advance. Definitely be selective, and try to ask each college what makes it different from College X that you are also speaking to that day. Whatever helps your memory beyond that is cool. College fairs put a lot of information in one place.</p>

<p>We went to a fair recently and two things helped a lot. First, we only visited the schools we checked off on a list beforehand. It would be great to wander and just stumble across something new, but there just wasn't enough time, and the crowds mandated that you only spend a few minutes at each. Second, we brought pre-printed labels to stick on the return post-cards (based on a hint from a college visit). They all ask the same questions: name, address, email, rank, gpa, high school, EC's, potential major, etc. Why write it out 20x? That way our time was spent talking -- not writing.</p>

<p>I attended one large fair (220 schools) with my son early in his junior year. What surprised me was his preconceived notions about a lot of the schools! My advice is to let your child do most of the talking; you'll find out a great deal about what he or she thinks college will be like.</p>

<p>My experience with our local college fair in New York was that none of the better colleges were there!!!! Maybe it will be different in Philly. I might add that the better colleges offered their own individual college seminars. For all three of my kids I remember going to HARVARD, Yale, Cornell, PENN, MIT, Tufts, Stanford, RPI, Brown, BU, to name a few. I think in the NY area they tend to send their admissions office reps to do some experience.</p>

<p>We also went to a college fair at my daughter's high school recently. There were about 120 or so schools there. It was interesting to see how all of my daughter's friends each had their own strategies for the fair and those strategies were often pretty predictible based on their personalities.</p>

<p>My daughter, for instance, got the list of schools beforehand and only checked off ones she was already potentially interested in --- she did end up talking to one or two other schools at the fair but felt she had a pretty good idea of what she wants and didn't want to look at schools that didn't fit her needs/desires. That actually ruled out quite a few schools right off the bat (such as the University of Judaism) and made the fair much more manageable. Of the school booths she did visit, she asked specific questions about study abroad options, programs in her potential major, and a few other things. She didn't write anything down (and I'm sure if you asked her now she wouldn't remember a thing that was said).</p>

<p>Her best friend who is hyper-organized brought index cards with her and wrote an index card for each school. She asked very detailed questions about admissions and her major and made notes on each card. She then stuck the card in to every brochure she received. Unlike my daughter, she visited schools of various sizes and locations even if they weren't on her "list" Knowing this girl, I'm sure she went home and worked up an excel spreadsheet after the fair!!!</p>

<p>One of my daughter's friends has not started the college search process yet and her and her mother went to every single booth and just gathered literature - kind of built their own personal Fiske Guide for later reading. They didn't really ask questions - just gathered literature and walked out with huge bags. She didn't seem to have any specific questions to ask but I did see that she was paying close attention to the questions other people were asking.</p>

<p>You may also want to ask your son what he wants your role to be at the fair. My daughter told me that while I could look at the booths and gather literature I thought was interesting, that she wanted to explore the fair "on her own" without me in close proximity. Her best friend also felt this way so they did the fair together (one of the reasons my daughter visited a few booths she didn't have on her list was because of her friend). From the clutch of parents gathered in the corner of the fair, I suspect this was very common.</p>

<p>The other thing I noticed about this particular fair was that it was extremely crowded and the most "popular" schools - especially the Ivy's - had such crowds at their booths that it was very difficult to get one-on-one time with the reps. I'd say wear comfortable clothes AND bring a water bottle. :) </p>

<p>Also, my daughter's guidance counselor had told my daughter beforehand to look for the Business reply cards at each booth and make sure she filled the ones out for the schools she was most interested in - apparently, the GC believes that colleges do enter this info. into their database so that while a rep might not remember you in the crush, it will at least be noted somewhere that you did visit them at the fair. Kjofkw - what a great idea to use pre-printed labels!!! I will have to remember that for next time.</p>

<p>An update!
My junior son and I attended the huge Philadelphia College Fair today in the big city at the Convention Center. I had printed out the list of colleges and starred the ones I thought he might like. He made up return address labels. We didn't have big enough ones to put anything but name, address and phone but this proved to be a big time saver.</p>

<p>Once there I let son do just about all the talking but steered him to the colleges we had agreed on. If I was a college I would have my very best rep at these fairs. It doesn't take much to turn off a teenager and make him never want to see a school that seems like it would be a good fit. At the Pitt table my son said that he wasn't sure what kind of computer major he might like. i.e. information technology, computer science, computer engineering, etc. The guy just blew him off and told him he should start searching the internet and figure it out. Guess we're not visiting that school. </p>

<p>As sgionvinc1 said, most of the ivy's were not there. Now that I think of it, I think Penn was the only one. Penn State had 3 booths, all busy, all the time. Anyway, it was an interesting day. We came back with a bag full of information and between the psat mail and today's interest cards he filled out we should be seeing some college junkmail starting to arrive in just a few weeks.</p>

<p>At one of the fairs we went to, my daughter went over to the table of one of the schools she was interested in. The woman behind the table looked at her and said, quite snidely, "Just shopping??" I don't know where she got the chip on her shoulder from. We did visit the school anyway, and everyone else seemed quite lovely and enthusiastic and interested in my daughter. The guys at the table from one of the Ivys seemed incredibly bored with the whole process. The guys at the table from another of the Ivys seemed very excited to meet the kids. So yes, I agree that it would be nice if the very best reps were at these things, but it sure isn't always the case.</p>

<p>address labels is a GREAT idea, since most of the colleges ask you to fill out a card. That serves the dual purpose of justifying their attendence and beefing up their mailing list. If you can just slap a label on the card it would save a lot of time. With all the info available on the web, the only useful activitiy I find is actually speaking to the reps - sometimes they are good, sometimes not so good.</p>